Essex Police are asking people to call 101 to report any issues unless it is a genuine emergency whilst the county is subject to high winds and rain over the next 15 hours.
Current forecasts suggest that the strongest winds are likely to hit Essex between midnight and 6am on Christmas Eve with the possibility that trees may be blown down and some damage could be caused to buildings.
Chief Superintendent Andy Prophet, of Essex Police, said: “We would advise people not to travel unless absolutely necessary until the winds have lessened and to take appropriate steps to secure their homes and property against the weather.
There is a potential for trees and power lines to come down as a result of the wind and for flying debris to be a danger at the peak of the storm. If possible, people should stay inside until the worst of the weather has passed.
“If someone is in a situation where life is threatened or there is a genuine emergency then people should call 999 but to allow police to deal with the most vital calls we would ask members of the public to call 101 in less extreme circumstances.”
Mr Prophet said that a number of local authorities also ran on-line reporting services for fallen trees and there were also other contact numbers which could be used.
Any issues with the roads run by Essex County Council can be reported to its Highways department on 0845 603 7631. If there are issues with fallen trees which are not affecting the road network in the county council area they can call 0845 606 7624. In Southend Borough Council’s area people can report fallen trees on 01702 215011 and in the Thurrock area they can call 01375 652955, in office hours, and 01375 372468 outside of that.
The Health Service is also advising people to use its non-urgent 111 number for health queries.
Mr Prophet said police were also urging drivers to take care if using any Essex roads that might be affected by flooding or blocked by debris.
They should drive appropriately to the conditions, and take especial care on tree-lined roads with blind bends.
If motorists come across flooding on the roads they should consider the following:
If you come across a flooded road, you should only attempt to drive through if you are certain that it is not too deep
Many cars will start to float in as little as 12 inches of water. This can be extremely dangerous; as the wheels lose grip, and you will lose control – with the obvious risks and consequences.
The engine air intake on many cars is low down at the front of the car; just an egg cupful of water ingested into the combustion chamber is sufficient to destroy an engine.
Only drive through flood water if you know it’s not too deep. This will be no deeper than the lowest part of the vehicle’s bodywork.
With standing water, physically test the depth of the water with a pole (wade in, if necessary, but only where it is safe to do so), or observe the depth against other vehicles that cross successfully.
But just because they are successful does not mean it is appropriate to follow.
If in doubt….don’t!
If you have to drive through water, select a low gear so the engine revs are higher, slipping the clutch if necessary or, for an automatic vehicle, select the lowest ratio and balance the throttle and brakes.
Before entering, consider other drivers – pass through flooded sections one car at a time, don’t drive through water against approaching fording vehicles.
Drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a large bow wave.
Test your brakes as soon as you leave the water.
If you get stuck, firstly, ensure the safety of all involved, including other road users. Do not repeatedly try to start the engine, (this may cause further damage). Call for recovery and wait in a safe place.
Police are also advising motorists to avoid the M25 and associated roads in the Thurrock area following the closure of the QEII Bridge since lunchtime.
It is likely to remain closed until at least 4am on Tuesday, December 24, although the Highways Agency will review these times depending on the conditions.
The tunnels will remain open to help maintain the flow of traffic, but congestion is expected so drivers are advised to seek alternative routes and if possible to avoid the Thurrock and Dartford areas of Essex and Kent.
Information on highways in Essex is available at www.essex.gov.uk/highways and on Twitter at @Essex_Travel.